Hawre’s father had fiercely resisted the oppression of the Kurds in Iran and came to The Netherlands with his family in 1998 as a political refugee. Hawre Rahimi planned to study medicine, as his family had often helped the wounded in the Iran-Iraq war. But his talents were found to lie more in the field of computers, so he studied computer science. In his second academic year he had already set up a company that built software for customers. This led to setting up a new business, Cynax, which he built together with his brother, Hawar, and his wife Renee. An IT company, it specialises in software applications in the field of stock optimisation and process improvement. He has the exclusive rights to these applications, which enable a very targeted approach to prospect businesses. Companies using his software benefit from significantly increased profits, so it is not surprising that the family business now has three branches, in Breda, Zaandam and Weesp, with a total of 30 employees. It took Hawre a total of ten years to complete his studies, but it was worth it in the light of his entrepreneurial drive and the results it delivered.

1. How long have you been in The Netherlands?

Since 1998, when my father arrived in The Netherlands as a political refugee with our family. We are survivors of a chemical attack on the Kurds. That attack had such an impact on our lives that my father, on arrival in The Netherlands, laid a charge against the Dutch businessman, Frans van Anraat, who had sold the raw materials for chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the eighties. The businessman was eventually condemned to 17 years imprisonment for complicity in war crimes.

2. How did you become an entrepreneur and why?
During my second year studying computer science I started a small business, building software for clients. Later, together with my brother and my wife, I set up my company, Cynax, which develops tools for stock optimisation and process improvement.
We also provide training in how to reduce lengthy delivery lead times and high production costs, and how to address planning problems and unsatisfied clients.

3. Did you encounter problems when you wanted to become an entrepreneur?
My skin colour and name always gave me the feeling that I had to prove myself more than others. I had a lot of problems with this, but at a certain point I deliberately chose not to let it affect me any longer. Nevertheless, I still run up against it, especially when things go wrong. I also regularly caught myself pretending to be more Dutch than I actually was. But I stopped that. I feel Kurdish, but also Dutch. As a result of the war I am always on my guard as to whom I do business with and who my clients are. If I even remotely suspect that someone is in the arms trade I will never do business with that person.

4. What are the differences between doing business in The Netherlands and in Kurdistan?
In The Netherlands a commitment is a commitment. I like that a lot although, to be honest, I do arrive late for appointments in my private life!

5. What is typically Dutch when it comes to doing business and being an entrepreneur?
The Dutch are individualistic and prefer not do business with family. They have a saying along the lines of, ‘Families are for sharing meals, not making deals’. Personally, I think it’s great running a business with my family. This, along with our speciality, is actually our strength. But perhaps family ties in Kurdistan are much stronger than in The Netherlands. It also strikes me that people often make ‘half promises’ here. So they’ll promise, for example, that they will call by some time this week – and then nothing happens. Personally, I have a constant drive to be reliable and will therefore always try to deliver on my promises. Eating with the Dutch can be very convivial – whether for social or business reasons – but the good atmosphere can change the moment the bill arrives. The way they go on about who pays for what – and the checking of the bill to see exactly what everyone’s had to eat and drink! I find that you simply have to split the bill, but if people start getting complicated about it I’d just as easily pay the whole thing myself.  I’m also struck by the fixed time for the evening meal. If you unexpectedly pop in or phone the Dutch at around 6 p.m. you disturb their supper. With us that’s not such an issue. If you call in at a mealtime you just join in, always. I have adapted myself somewhat in this regard, but old habits die hard.

6. What have you taken from both the Kurdish and Dutch cultures?
Patience in business and being very trusting of others are typical of the Kurdish culture. Thinking in the longer term instead of the short is what I’ve learnt from Dutch culture.

7. Would you ever go back to Kurdistan?
Basically I can always go back, but I would be thoroughly questioned on arrival and that’s something
I don’t (yet) want.

8. What are the secrets of your success?
Hard work, perseverance, focus on what’s possible and don’t spend too much time on what’s not.
Always look for that which unites us – and not what divides us.

9. What is your favourite fruit, and why?
Lemon, I love sour things.

10. What is your favourite Dutch product and/or place?
My favourite product is filet americain and the town centre of Weesp is my favourite place.

TIPS van Hawre

1. Don’t be swayed by what society thinks and says, however difficult that may be
2. Do it your way
3. A wise person – my father-in-law – once said:  ‘There is no wiser decision than a decision made”.

“My skin colour and name always gave me the feeling that I had to prove myself more than others”